Saturday, May 30, 2009


Directed by Peter Docter
Written By Bob Petersen
Starring Ed Asner, Jordan Nagai, and Christopher Plummer

Pixar has the credibility that few other studios have ever achieved. Every film that they have produced has been both a commercial and critical hit. Other studios have probably spent time and money trying to figure out how Pixar is able to do what they do. Let me save you some time. Pixar makes great movies by hiring great artist to tell great stories and I'm thrilled to report that their latest film Up, is no exception. 

Up is the story of an old man named Carl Fredricksen who for the first time since childhood finds himself alone. As a young child Carl was obsessed with adventures. He just so happened to meet a young lady named Ellie who shared that love for adventure. The two of them grew up, got married, and shared a life together in a multi-colored home. When Ellie passes away Carl finds that his house is under siege by a development company who wants to tear it down. He eventually loses his fight to keep his home and instead of giving in he rigs it to hundreds of balloons and flies away.  Unfortunately, a young Wilderness Explorer named Russell was trapped on his front porch and is now along with him for the journey. 

The opening montage displays the entire marriage between Carl and Ellie without using one word of dialogue. The story is told through the characters, their actions, and the musical score of Michael Giacchino. Through this montage we find out everything we need to know about the characters. There marriage flies by in a matter of moment on the screen but resonates deeply with the audience. We feel the excitement and joy of buying their first home. We understand the comfort that Carl felt as Ellie tied his tie for him every morning. We watch as they lose their unborn child and mourn with them. Finally when Ellie passes away I actually felt her loss on screen. 

I feel like at this point I should mention that I was in an theater filled with children. Because the film features cartoon characters and is released by Disney children will want to see it. Still, the film doesn't water anything down for them. They are telling their story and a large part of this film deals with either losing your dream, getting over grief, or being disappointed by somebody you love. What was even more impressive was that the kids in the theater were on the same page as the filmmakers. 

The voice actors are cast not because they are marquee names but because they are the perfect actors for the role. While watching the film I was taken back by how genuine and authentic the characters felt. The actors are playing the characters and not simply reading a script into a microphone. 

The animation is certainly very visually stunning. The sky is a majestic blue while the sunset is full of vibrant and beautiful reds and oranges. The sight of hundreds of balloons being released into the air is every bit as wonderful as you would have imagined it as a child. When they are initially released they create beautiful colors on all the buildings and people around them. All the onlookers stare in wonder and I can't blame them. 

Earlier I mention that the score was one of the driving forces of the first few moments of this film. Giacchino also did the score for Star Trek  and also for the television series Lost as well as other Pixar films. Traditionally composer for movies have their own distinct score. Regular movie goers can pick out scores done by John Williams or Hans Zimmer. What I'm starting to really appreciate about Giacchino is that he creates specific music based on the project. There are no similarities between this score and Lost.  

While the performances, score, and animation is impressive it wouldn't be engaging without the story. Yes, I'm coming back to the story because it is what sets this film apart from all the other paint by numbers kid's movies. While the characters in this film are constantly being reminded that "adventure is out there," this is a story about how to deal with grief and disappointment. At the end of the story this movie is about moving on and not being afraid to make life an adventure. This is an important lesson to learn at any age. 

Finally, I was able to view this film in 3D and I have to say it was worth the price of admission. There is nothing particularly flashy about the 3D. There are no gimmicks associated with the 3D it just enhances the viewing of the film. 

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